Date of Graduation
Few people outside the state of West Virginia recognize the name Anna Jarvis or know of the lovely church that stands as a shrine to her accomplishments. Yet, on every second Sunday in May, we mail the cards, buy the flowers, place the long distant phone calls, or make the brunch reservation to honor our mothers because of her. Anna Jarvis was the founder of Mother's Day. She organized the first official Mother's Day celebration in 1908 and then spent four decades promoting the holiday and defending it from commercialization and ideological exploitation. Jarvis designed her Mother's Day celebration based on a sentimental view of motherhood and domesticity; thus she envisioned a day venerating the daily services and sacrifices of mothers within the home. This sentimental design reflected her intimate view of motherhood as a daughter wishing to honor the memory of her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. After President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day a national holiday in 1914, however, other organizations sought to alter the day's sentimental observance to meet the changing perceptions of modern motherhood and the realities of women's lives in the twentieth century. Instead of restricting a mother's service and influence solely to the domestic sphere, they emphasized the power of mothers both within their homes and throughout their communities. Yet Jarvis refused to accept the holiday's changing interpretation and public observance, claiming both intellectual and legal ownership of Mother's Day. Her obsession with protecting the purity of her sentimental vision sustained a war of verbal and legal assaults against rival holiday promoters, patriotic women's organizations, charitable foundations, public health reformers, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. The struggle for control of Mother's Day ultimately threatened Jarvis' livelihood, physical health, and emotional stability. Jarvis successfully restricted the holiday's cultural legacy by failing to promote and celebrate the private and public facets of women's maternal identities. Therefore, â€œMemorializing Motherhoodâ€ also explores the complex social understanding of motherhood in American culture. Since the nineteenth century, the idea of a day honoring the role of â€œMotherâ€ has provided a platform for a cultural debate over the intrinsic value of motherhood and the boundaries of the maternal role in society. â€œMemorializing Motherhoodâ€ traces the varied conceptualizations of motherhood embedded within the history of Mother's Dayâ€”from the first promotions of a maternal memorial day in the nineteenth century to the competing Mother's Day celebrations of the early twentieth century.
Antolini, Katharine Lane, "Memorializing motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the struggle for control of Mother's Day." (2010). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8412.